Five Reasons to Hire Yourself as Chief Life Officer

by | Feb 25, 2018 | Physician Burnout, Physician Resilience

Every organization has a leader, from presidents to department chiefs to CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and even CROs (Chief Risk Officers). So what is a CLO? It’s the most important one of all: Chief Life Officer. It’s a position that is open in each of our lives but the one that’s least likely to be filled.

Many people live according to the wishes and desires of others, living with a sense that they don’t take enough charge. Some may take charge in one area of their life but let others slide. Others may simply let the winds of life decide their course. Wherever you are on the spectrum, there is often a lot of dissatisfaction with the perceived amount of day-to-day control. If you want to become more resilient to life’s challenges, it’s vital that you have a sense of internal control. It’s thought that strengthening internal control decreases burnout. Thinking of yourself as your CLO is a good way to strengthen this sense.

Becoming your own Chief Life Officer involves taking stock, thinking about what is most important to you, and questioning how you define success for yourself. It’s about aligning your life with your deepest values and claiming the meaning you want. Here are five key questions to help you build an individualized “job description” for your CLO.

    1. What are your core values? Is it having meaningful relationships?For many, the meaningful relationships in their lives are what they hold as most important. Or is it determination? Trust? Is it behaving with integrity, fighting injustice, appreciating nature, maintaining orderliness, or acting with compassion?A simple exercise you can do is to picture an experience where you feel you acted at your best. This could be anywhere — at work, on a vacation, or with family or friends. Take a few minutes to identify and recall that experience. See if you can relive it vividly, right now, mentally, physically, and emotionally. As you do so, focus on why you picked this particular experience. Notice what it was about how you acted that felt so right. Look at this list of values and notice which ones resonate for you. It’s the things you uphold when you’re acting at your best, as defined by you, that is your shortlist of core values.


    1. Are you living according to your own internal compass?Once you’ve established a clearer sense of what is most important to you, perform an internal “audit” to see whether you’re living in a way that is aligned with your core values. Look over the past few weeks of your life. Did you act according to what’s most deeply important to you? Look at what’s on your calendar for the week ahead. Can you think about how really living these values can help you with tasks and challenges? The more you can uphold what is truly important to you, the more you’ll be in the driver’s seat of your life, and the more you’ll feel proud of your actions, small or large.


    1. How do you define success for yourself? For many of us, much of our sense of success has been built on external measures or what we think others expect of us. It’s all too easy to follow the path we believe we should follow rather than the one we truly want. We may base our sense of self on external parameters such as job stature or expectations from others. Take time to notice which successes truly matter to you and which ones don’t. Establishing your own definition of success allows you to find happiness, satisfaction, and more fulfilling life. Wherever you are on your life path, your CLO can help take you a few steps further.


    1. What’s your vision of your life? When you think about who you are at your best, what is it that you offer to the world? We each bring unique gifts, strengths, and talents to our community, workplace, and to those around us. At times you may feel small or like you have little control over your life. In reality, though, you are the only person who has control over your own mind and over your actions. If you don’t develop and pursue your own vision, you can be sure that no one else will. One way to develop your vision is to think about who you want to be in the future. Jump ahead five years and picture what you want your life to look like. Combine your core values, your definition of success, and your uniqueness. Let yourself think large. Take some time this week to think about what you dream about achieving and about what legacy you want to leave. Begin writing your personal vision statement.


  1. Are you spending time in ways that reflect what’s truly important to you? When you’re clearer about your vision, you can think more about how you spend your time and make more mindful choices. Although you may be working more than you’d like or doing many things you need to do to stay afloat, being in touch with your CLO helps you carve out time each and every week to move closer to the things that are truly important in your life. It may be only a few minutes, but it’s critical that you delegate where possible, say “no” to extras, and say “yes” to things that are in alignment with your life vision.

It’s hard work and takes a lot of practice, but it’s your life we’re talking about here. What could be more important?

As with any new position, there’s a learning curve to becoming your CLO. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a process of self-examination, self-awareness, and intentionality in your actions. What step can you take today to begin to fill this vital role? If you don’t fill this role, who will?

Leave your comments and suggestions below so others can learn from your experience.

  1. Embrace uncertainty

When you stop and think about it, uncertainty and change are the only things that are certain. Impermanence is one of the basic laws of our world.

After all, everything changes. Our relationships change. Our kids grow up and change. Our bodies age and change. Our environments change. Our planet changes.

All too often, however, we forget this basic truth. We somehow expect things to be predictable and stable.

The problem is that this expectation sets us up for difficulty. It leaves us struggling unnecessarily when something shifts. It adds a layer of suffering above and beyond that caused by all the VUCA around us.

What I’m getting at is that we have a choice. We can meet uncertainty with reactivity or we can meet it with mindful understanding.

More than meditating on a remote mountainside, mindfulness helps us have the calm, steadiness, and clarity we need to work constructively with all the change and uncertainty.

At the same time, while we can find ourselves resisting change, we can remind ourselves that it does not have to mean something bad! Just take a moment right now to think of all the difficulties you have faced in your life and work that are now resolved and far behind you. This can help you see how change has actually been quite the positive.

  1. Respond to complexity with compassion

Even knowing that change is the only thing that is certain, it can still be difficult to weather. Living in such a VUCA time is difficult. You deserve compassion for managing all the challenges.

With mindful awareness, we can bring ourselves compassion for what we’re going through. There is increasing evidence that self-compassion is a powerful antidote to stress and even burnout. From where I sit, I think that it is actually one of the most powerful medicinals available to us.

  1. Take purposeful pauses

With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on within and around us. We tune in and pay attention to our experience. We learn to utilize our breath to take us out of the fears, worries, stories, and preoccupations our minds are so good at generating about what might come next, and bring us back to the present moment. Here in the present, we leave that overly activated limbic state and can experience a sense of calm.

A pause also serves to allow our prefrontal cortex to come online. It creates a critically important space between our emotional response and conscious, intentional action.

Once we have paused, we can then see more clearly that fear had taken hold. 

With a pause, we become the witness of our experience as opposed to the one trapped by it.

  1. View VUCA as opportunity

I don’t know about you, but I can find myself reacting to the VUCA environment with something of a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, I am telling myself things like ‘it shouldn’t be this way’ and ‘why is this happening?’

When I can utilize mindful awareness, I can see that I’ve boxed myself in with a fixed mindset. I can challenge myself to grow. By grow, I mean challenging myself to see whatever difficulty I’m experiencing as an opportunity to learn.

Here again, mindfulness again throws us a lifeline. Mindful awareness involves leaning into curiosity.

I can flip the script and ask myself:

What can I learn from this experience?

How can I use this to be a better version of myself?

How can I help others cope in this VUCA environment?

What do I want to look back and see about how I acted?

In summary, while VUCA is definitely the order of the day in healthcare and beyond, you don’t have to succumb. You don’t have to live in fear. There are constructive actions you can take to help you cope with uncertainty, build calm in chaos, and even thrive in chaos and VUCA. While we can’t control much that is contributing to the VUCA time, with mindfulness we can control how we respond to it.

I hope you’ll try out these 4 mindfulness strategies as I have seen them help countless people. I’d love to hear how it goes.


To learn more about how mindfulness coaching can help you cope with this VUCA time, please reach out for a complimentary consult.

6 Free Resources To Help You During COVID19 And Beyond.

  1. 14-day meditation series 
  2. Imposter No More PDF
  3. Resilience Book Chapter
  4. Leading In Crisis PDF
  5. Balance To Burnout PDF
  6. 30-minute consult

Take advantage of one or more of these valuable resources created for clinicians and non-clinicians.